Councillors raise no objections to Elgin school changes

East End Primary - split will go ahead following Wednesday's council decision
East End Primary – split will go ahead following Wednesday’s council decision

NO OBJECTIONS WERE raised by Moray Councillors in taking a decision to go ahead with the building of a new school on the southern outskirts of Elgin.

Members of Moray Council’s children and young people’s services committee gave the proposal their unanimous endorsement – with none making any comment on objects of over one third of those taking part in a consultation over the move.

The meeting opened with a comment from the committee chair, Councillor Ann Skene, on the letter sent to all members on behalf of Pitvavney echoing their concerns over the issue. Councillor Skene advised members that they should disregard the letter as related to an issue that was dealt with in the consultation report.

However, Councillor Douglas Ross took issue with her comment, saying that no member of the public or group with an interest in any issue should ever be discouraged from contacting Councillors directly to make their feelings known.

During the meeting the Council’s senior education adviser, Paul Watson, countered claims that the case for a new school had been based on inaccurate roll forecasts for Elgin primary schools.

Although conceding that forecasts of that nature were not “an exact science”, comparing them to weather forecasting, Mr Watson said that all roll predictions were revised on an annual basis.

He pointed out that in 2011 it had been forecast that the combined Elgin primary school roll for 2016 would be 2297. It currently stands at 2275, only 22 less than predicted – representing a forecast accuracy of over 99%.

There being no objections the committee paved the way for work on splitting East End Primary as a temporary measure – which had already begun on Monday – and planning for the new school should proceed.

Reaction

Last night parents reacted with disappointment that none of their concerns appeared to be worthy of discussion by Councillors.

One told insideMoray: “We have had to sacrifice a lot of personal time and energy and this is obviously very disappointing. We knew right from the start that there was never going to be any other option but that the children from the South East catchment would come to East End in one form or another.

“The best option would have been for the children to come to East End as East End pupils.  This would have saved the huge additional expense of building a new reception and Head Teacher’s office (that will not be required when the temporary school moves out) and the cost of an extra Head Teacher’s wages.

“The Council’s argument against this has always been that they feel it is important for the temporary school to start having its own identity and ethos, but it is difficult to see how this is possible when everything the temporary School does will have to be shared and agreed with East End School.  Our children will share the same building and entrance as East End children as well as the toilets, gym, canteen, playground and playing field.

“Education Scotland have also recommended that links are made between the schools to ensure the younger pupils of the temporary Primary school have the benefit of mixing with older pupils including a school buddy system.  How can this possibly be a school with its own separate identity when they will share and be a part of East End so much?”

Reacting on insideMoray’s Facebook page to an expression of surprise that none of the concerns raised through this website in recent weeks had even been deemed worthy of airing in the council chamber, the SNP Councillor for Elgin City North, Kirsty Johnstone-Reid, said: “Having considered all the points raised, I came to the conclusion that given the circumstances the best decision for Elgin was in the long term a new school to be built in South East Elgin – and given the reply to all the consultations and from Education Scotland, that a temporary school being formed in East End, although far from ideal, was the best solution available.

“The refurbishment works that have been carried out at East End would have been required regardless of the decision today, as the children would likely had to have been housed at least in part at East End.

“This way East End will also have the former Heritage Centre passed back to them fully refurbished when the new school is built which is no bad thing either.”

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